Tis The Season …

Flagler Blvd Xmas decorations 11-13-2014Road Warriorette and former bike partner Anne, who abandoned me to move back home to Texas, arrived for a West Palm Beach visit Thursday afternoon. I got her settled in at her motel, then we went out for a great dinner, visited bike partner Osa, stopped by another of Anne’s friends, then headed up Flagler Drive where we spotted this house all set for Christmas.

The palm trees – and the balmy 70-degree temperature – gave an indication I wasn’t in the Midwest.

Pining for the ocean

Anne’s a Texan by birth and inclination, but she did admit to pining for the ocean. I turned right on Southern Blvd., and took her for a ride along Palm Beach. When we got to one of the few places you could park and get public access to the beach, I told her she could get and and frolic in the sand and surf if she liked, but I preferred the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean.

When we left, I asked if she’d like to go to the north end of the island to the Palm Beach Inlet. That’s like asking if bears fertilize the forest.

“Don’t fence me in”

When we got to the inlet, there was a chain holding the gate to the small park closed. I put my car in park with the four-way flashers blinking and let her out. I assumed she was going to stand at the gate and look out toward Singer Island’s lights across the water.

I heard her humming “Don’t Fence Me In,” a rattle of the fence and she was gone from sight. She never did things like that when she was a Floridian.

“That’s not a happy sound”

On our way back to the motel, I told Friend Anne, “That’s not a happy sound. I think I’ve got a flat tire.”

Indeed, the left rear tire was flat.

Maybe I can give it a shot of Fix-a-Flat or pump it up with my portable air compressor, I considered. The only problem was that I had taken all those options out of the car last night when I unloaded it, but hadn’t replaced them. Plan C was to put the doughnut spare on, something I really hated to do since the Honda jack is the worst piece of equipment ever devised.

I had just started attacking the problem when a car pulled up behind us. It was Patrol Officer Larry Ferguson of the Palm Beach Police Department. I figured he’d run our tag, ask for ID, shine his flashlight around inside the car, then leave us in the dark when we came up clean. (Well, I knew I would come up clean. There’s no telling what Friend Anne has been up to in the Lone Star State.)

It turned out Larry was a nice guy who went way beyond the call of duty. I’m going to write a letter to the chief telling him that Larry is a great representative of his department.

How to have a fun evening in Palm Beach

Ken Steinhoff - PB PD officer Larry Ferguson -Anne Rodgers 11-13-2014Here are few of the things that happened:

  • I didn’t have the jack on the frame properly so it slipped off.
  • The doughnut spare was flat, so I called Wife Lila to bring my tools and compressor. Larry offered to take me someplace to get it aired up, but I said it was such a hassle to jack the car up that I’d rather leave it on the car and bring the compressor to the tire.
  • Lila arrived, we hooked up the compressor and it hummed away in the humid air for several minutes. I was beginning to regret having that second glass of tea with dinner.
  • Larry felt around the rim, felt air escaping and said the tire was so flat it had lost its bead and would NEVER fill up.
  • We jacked up the car again, removed my spare, and put put on Lila’s spare (we drive the same model van). At some point, my jack twisted and became inoperable, so we had to switch to Lila’s jack.
  • We offered Larry an opportunity to escape, but he pitched in fighting the jack. helping lift the tire onto the studs and making sure Anne had tightened the lug nuts properly. Wife Lila didn’t get a shot of me toiling away with sweat splashing off my forehead, but she did capture me in a supervisory role.

Things that put the jolly in the evening

With Thanksgiving coming up, I should give thanks for a few of the good things that happened.

  • Patrolman Ferguson, a native of West Palm Beach who moved back here after serving as an officer in Washington State, was not only a tremendous help in getting us through our tire difficulties, but he was also a genuinely nice guy who was fun to talk with and who gave us an interesting perspective about how the area had changed since he was a kid going to Twin Lakes High School.
  • Wife Lila showed up with everything needed to get me back on the road. I’m glad my flat happened in Palm Beach and not in Nowhere, Ga.
  • Anne provided help and moral support once I explained to her that we were in Florida not Texas: “No, Anne, it didn’t ‘throw a shoe.’ We don’t have to call for a blacksmith.”

Buying two REAL jacks to replace those Honda pieces of junk will go to the top of my to-do list tomorrow.



Blown Tire Blues

Ken Steinhoff changing tire on Lila Steinhoff's car 01-26-2014 There I was, sleeping the sleep of the just, all snuggled up in my blankets against the unseasonable Florida cold, while Wife Lila was on her way to church. About six minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off (so I could ignore it, being Sunday and retired on top of that), my cell phone rang.

For a guy who used to be a telecommunications manger, I hate phones in general and cell phones in particular. I swear they have a sensor that makes them ring when I’m napping, in the shower or in the one-seat Steinhoff Reading Library. Oh, yes, I can go a week without getting a call, but let me be on my cell and that will compel the house phone to ring, not wanting to be left out of anything.

So, back to this morning: Wife Lila says she’s in a no-parking zone on the northbound lane of Parker Avenue north of Forest Hill with a blow-out.

I assure her I am on my way

Ken Steinhoff changing tire on Lila Steinhoff's car 01-26-2014While I’m trying to find garments to cover my body, she calls back to tell me that the sidewall is wrecked and that blowing it up is not an option.

“That’s the way blowouts work,” I said. I assure her I am on my way.

I stop long enough to get a manly tire tool and a heavy hammer in case some gorilla with an impact wrench put the tire on the last time.

I head south on Georgia, turn west on Forest Hill (to be passed by a plain black pickup truck with emergency lights running Code 3), go past Garden, Lake, Parker, I-95 and a myriad of other streets until I get to Congress, and drive north looking for Wife Lila’s green Honda Odyssey van. Three blocks north of where she should be, I pull into a parking lot, pick up my cell phone to find out where she is.

Just as I press SEND, I realize I’ve driven to CONGRESS and Forest Hill, about a mile past Parker. I confess to a brain fart and assure her I’m on my way.

I make a U-turn (unlike Ohio, U-turns are permitted unless prohibited), head back east on Forest Hill Blvd. and turn north on Parker, where she is supposed to be. Six blocks later, I pick up my cell phone to ask her where she is.

“Oh, I’m not on Parker, I’m on Lake.” That’s a block east of Parker. I assure her I’m on my way.

Yep. The tire was definitely flat. Something had done a real number on the sidewall.

Here’s where I made a couple of tactical errors

  • Ken Steinhoff changing tire on Lila Steinhoff's car 01-26-2014I bounced the doughnut spare on the ground a couple of times and thought it was in pretty good shape. I should have checked it with a tire gauge, then topped it off with the portable tire pump I bought in Cape last summer. This isn’t exactly the model I have, but they are all about the same at this price point.
  • She asked if she should pull away from the curb a bit more. I told her I thought I had enough clearance to turn the crank. I discovered after I had the jack started that I didn’t, but I didn’t want to take it out and start over. (I’m buying a REAL jack at my first opportunity. I had forgotten how wienie the Honda jacks are.)

It’s a good thing I brought the manly tire iron

Ken Steinhoff changing tire on Lila Steinhoff's car 01-26-2014Four of the five hub nuts spun off easily. Gorilla guy put on the fifth one. I had to resort to The Big Hammer to break it loose.

Putting the new tire on was no sweat. It looked a little low, so I was going to use the portable compressor to pump it up, but the power cord was too short. (Should have done it when it was off the car.)

Home was only a few blocks away, so she drove it to where I could get at it with my electric compressor. She’ll go over to Southend Service in the morning to get a new tire. Luckily it was one of the older ones.

Wow, I’m tired just talking about tires. At least it wasn’t raining, sleeting or 102 degrees. [Thanks to Wife Lila for documenting the experience.]

Alan, Lisa and Reality

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013I was supposed to meet Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern for an afternoon ramble. The left rear tire was a little low, so I went down the hill to Plaza to have them check it out. I rolled forward slowly and nothing appeared to be sticking in it, and it would taken them an hour to get around to me, so I had them air it up and I went to pick up my passengers.

We were going to be driving around on some remote roads, so I stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a portable tire inflator “just in case.” My two passengers pronounced it “cute” and thought it would make a good Christmas stocking stuffer. (If you get one, credit – or blame – me.)

We paused at the Thebes Mississippi River overlook and admired Alan and / or Lisa’s pronouncement of devotion. You can decry graffiti on public property, but it had to have taken a long time to etch out “Alan Hearts Lisa Always” in the seat. It was at least 3/8″ deep and filled in with black.

There is always a cynic around

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013In different handwriting and with an indelible marker, the inevitable gonna-rain-on-your-parade cynic scrawled, “This Week!” above the “always.”

Debris from flood

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013We looked at debris, including a green buoy, deposited by the recent flood.

What are these?

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

On the way to the car, we tried to identify these purple things. We weren’t sure if they were berries or grapes. They were intermingled with mulberries and poison ivy. Maybe somebody can tell us what we were looking at.

This is bad news

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

When we got to the parking area, I noticed the tire was down about a third. I said we’d better go back to have it checked out. Just before we got to the bridge, I could tell the tire was almost flat by the way the rear end was acting squirrelly. Yep, it was nearly flat. I pulled out the “cute” inflator and let it pump away. The box said it should inflate a tire in five minutes, but that might be one that’s not leaking air. When it hit 32 psi and wouldn’t go any higher, we took off.

By the time I got to Plaza at William and Kingshighway, it was flat again.

The nice man who looked at it said I was lucky to have made it in at all. It had a big split on the inside of the tire. “And, by the way, did you know you had two wrong-sized tires on the rear of the car?”

Nope. But it turned out to have been two tires I had to buy at Sam’s in the middle of Nowhere, GA, when I had a blowout on a day when temperatures were just short of that of the surface of the sun. Since the second tire was getting close to the wear bars, I had them replace both of them. That should keep me safe from hydroplaning if I have to make a mad dash through a tropical storm or hurricane.

Did I mention I had calendars and books for sale? I ask because Wife Lila called yesterday to say that our 20-plus-year-old washer died on the same day she had her power steering dohickey replaced.

I felt like I had been swatted by the guy who added a dose of reality to Alan and Lisa’s message.